Gujarat indeed is a vibrant State. But slightly over vibrant.
Even as the massive corruption of the Hatkeshwar bridge which had to be pulled down because it endangered lives is fresh in memory, another bridge, this time in Surat is in the news.
It is not even 40 days since Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel inaugurated the Variav Ved Bridge on the Tapti river in Surat. Now, this brand new bridge has developed cracks and rendered unsafe.
Though repair works have begun, it is shocking that the 1.5 kilometre bridge built at a whopping sum of Rs 118 crores has not been able to take its first rainfall.
“The settlement is around six inches and it is on a 25-metre stretch. It is a portion of the road that was elevated to connect it to the bridge approach. There is no damage to the bridge structure or its approach,” an SMC official claimed. “There is a rivulet adjoining the road and on the other side, it is an open farm. Further, it is a newly developed elevated road using soil with a retention wall on both sides. It is possible that due to rains, there was some soil settlement,” the officer added.
Akshay Pandya, an SMC city engineer, told reporters that the affected approach road was constructed using reclaimed gravel and filling material. He too thought that soil settlement during massive rainfall may have led to the subsidence.
However, Dharmesh Bhandari, the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) opposition leader, believes that this a ploy. In his words, bridges are big money making projects. The BJP and those in power in the BJP are deliberately sanctioning substandard projects. Much of the moolah is shared between those who construct and those who sanction, that is the politicians.
The Aam Aadmi Party too has criticised the ruling party, with Gujarat AAP president Isudan Gadhvi alleging corruption and calling for a detailed investigation.
This is not the only instance of a weak bridge endangering lives. Earlier this month, a bridge across the Mindhola River connecting the villages of Mayapur and Degama in Vyara Taluka, collapsed, impacting over 15 towns. The bridge’s construction, which began in 2021 at a cost of Rs 2 crore, is now being accused of corruption. Residents complain that poor quality materials were employed in its construction. Executive Engineer Nirav Rathod revealed that the construction of the bridge commenced in 2021 and incurred a cost of Rs 2 crore. An investigation led by experts will be conducted to determine the cause behind the bridge’s failure.
Earlier on April 6, the Atal Bridge glass floor developed cracks. The overbridge, located between Ellisbridge and Sardar Bridge, was constructed at a cost of Rs 74.29 crore. The construction was to be completed by September 30, 2020, but owing to Covid, the bridge project was delayed and finally inaugurated on August 27, last year.
The bridge has been built using 2,600 metric tonnes of steel pipes. The roof has been made of colourful fabric, signifying the kite festival, while its railing is made of glass and stainless steel. The bridge is 300 meters long and its width varies between 10 and 14 metres.